Jun 23, 2021 8:42 PM
Bubblehead aliens meet Amenta
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This is a relatively boring star system. Yellow star on the dim side, two rocky planets, asteroid belt, gas giant with a few moons. It wasn't a great prospect to begin with, but even mediocre prospects must be checked out. The potentially habitable planet here turns out to be closer to the star and much hotter than anticipated. Certainly not suitable for colonization, given that water would boil on the surface if the atmospheric pressure wasn't so high.

Though, there is something else interesting here. A small starship (well, 'small' as far as starships go, it's about a hundred meters long) is in a low orbit around the potentially habitable planet. Smooth round body, two nacelles, no active radio or subspace transmissions.

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The Amentan explorer Scout III opens up its radio and subspace transmissions in case the other ship is listening and starts saying hello in various languages and also prime numbers.

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The strange ship responds in subspace with prime numbers and some more math and a lot of data that looks like a text corpus with an attempt at a translation package using physical constants, like the mass of hydrogen.

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The Amentans have a text corpus to send back! The ship computer starts chewing on what they have received.

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After a while, the ship says it is Many Water Prospector and does not want to fight in a dozen different ways.

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Scout III also does not want to fight! It is glad they agree!

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Many Water Surveyor is also glad! It is not a science ship and is having difficulty with translation. It does not want to cause misunderstandings! But not fighting is very important. It talks about not wanting to fight some more. Why do they have so many different communication standards? It is very confusing. (This is again said in many languages at once.)

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Their planet has many languages spoken! They use machines to translate them, and sent lots in case Many Water Surveyor would have an easier time with some of them than others. Scout III's crew's favorite is this one here though. They are so glad they have found some aliens and that the aliens don't want to fight.

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They will only use that language. Having many languages spoken seems inconvenient. They used to do that but it gradually creoled into one that was eventually revised and simplified.

Scout III is the first alien ship their species has met! They are glad but also worried! Aliens existing has scary implications like there being LOTS of aliens, and that some of them might want to fight.

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Scout III's species, Amentans, has not met any aliens before either, so it does not know if some third species of aliens might want to fight.

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Their species can be translated (imperfectly!) as Many One Many, Bubblehead, or Wall Builder. They like 'bubblehead' the best among those. Communicating with Amenta is clearly very important! They want to go inform their government soon! They don't think [untranslatable 1] is possible at this time but they can send someone to Scout III (in an isolation life support suit!) as an [untranslatable 1]-replacement if they want.

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The Amentans call themselves after the name of their planet, Amenta, which means "land" in an older version of the language they are speaking with the Bubbleheads. Could the Bubbleheads say more about untranslateable-1?

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Their name for their planet is 'Planet'. Or 'Ululam' in phonetic translation. Untranslatable-1 is a method of communication that is much faster than talking, and the way to spread skills and knowledge and memories and perform negotiation, and necessary to maintain psychological health. Do they not do untranslatable-1?

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Their translation is still new, so they might have something like it, but it does not sound very familiar.

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They are confused how an intelligent species can develop without untranslatable-1. Their scientists theorized that aliens might be very weird, though. They wouldn't want the confusion to grow worse. They think it may be best to agree to send one science ship each back to this system in [a quarter season].

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That sounds like a good plan. Should they have some contingency contact arrangement, like subspace messaging protocols, in case one or the other ship fails to make it on time?

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They can work out contingency contact arrangements, including leaving probes and subspace protocols.

And then Many Water Prospector will leave.

A bigger ship is present a quarter season later, when the Amentans return. It identifies itself as Many Water Prospector and Science Eater and Elegant Coordination Minister and Climbing Engineer Scout and Beauty Of Life.

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The Amentan science ship is called the Neutrino and it is pleased to meet them. Does the ship have some relation to the Many Water Prospector from before?

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Many Water Prospector is on the ship with everyone else, yes! They think their translation is a lot better now and would like to translate untranslatable-1 as brain-exchanging.

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...brain-exchanging, gosh. Amentans cannot exchange their brains.

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How do they learn things then??? Or negotiate credibly??? Or deal with the fact that some kinds of work don't require much brain at all and other kinds need LOTS of brain???

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They learn things from experience, and negotiate with... iterated trust-building setups and consequences for defection and such, and usually smarter people work on more-brain stuff and dumber people work on less-brain stuff.

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There's a pause on transmissions for a bit, then they ask what does an iterated trust-building setup... Look like? Elegant Coordination Minister has some idea how spoken negotiations work but they are always dispreferred compared to brain-exchanging, especially for high-stakes things.

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Well, like, if someone dealt generously and fairly with you in the past you can guess they will keep doing that, and they'll be motivated to because they will want you to keep negotiating with them in the future.

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That makes sense.

Do the Amentans have a broader agenda for this meeting in mind? The bubbleheads have no specific agenda except getting to know them.

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They would like to find out if the bubbleheads want to trade things, like star maps and telemetry about habitable planets, and if they'd like to exchange crewmembers to do in-person visits they are equipped for that too!

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